Prince Philip – Duke of Edinburgh – with the stars

On occasions the Duke of Edinburgh rubbed shoulders with the Film Stars of the day – or maybe that should be the Film Stars rubbed shoulders with him

Here he is Above with American actress Rhonda Fleming

ABOVE – Not sure of the occasion but this photograph is taken at Pinewood Film Studios with a young lady suitable dressed serving a drink to Prince Philip – is that Lord Louis Mountbatten on the far left of the picture ?

ABOVE – Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh having a jolly time at a function – Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner to the Left of the picture – and I think that is Ginger Rogers on the right. No real idea who the lady in the centre is.

Anyway the Duke seems to be making them laugh.

A later photograph shows a very relaxed Roger Moore sharing one of his anecdotes with The Duke of Edinburgh – Cubby Broccoli seems amused by whatever has been said.

This is an occasion that Roger Moore would rake in his stride

In 1948, the Duke of Edinburgh, 27, was introduced to actress Pat Kirkwood in her dressing room at the Hippodrome Theatre in London.

That evening Philip drove Pat also 27, erratically to a Mayfair restaurant in his sports car — nearly causing an accident in the process – where the pair enjoyed dinner together at Les Ambassadeurs.

Afterwards they headed to a nightclub, where they stayed up until dawn dancing cheek-to-cheek.

Pat Kirkwood was later quoted as saying: “He was so full of life and energy. I suspect he felt trapped and rarely got a chance to be himself. I think I got off on the right foot because I made him laugh”

Philip and Pat are said to have enjoyed each other’s company a further six times – sparking alleged romance rumours.

But the time spent together soon turned sour when their friendship resulted in headlines worldwide such as “The Prince and the Showgirl”.

Pat Kirkwood always denied there was any affair, and even went as far to say their friendship “ruined her life” as the Palace refused to deny the rumours.

Her friends believe that her association with Philip is the reason she never received any official honours, despite 60 years of stardom.

Letters between her and Philip that came to light after her death in 2007, aged 86, referred to the gossip as a “ridiculous rumour” spread by “evil-minded” people, indicating an affair never happened.

  • Pat’s first husband was theatrical manager Jack Lister in 1940. The marriage broke down when Pat suffered a nervous breakdown and spent eight months in a New York sanatorium.
  • In 1952, she married Greek shipowner, Spiro “Sparky” de Spero Gabriele. He died two years later from a heart attack.
  • Actor, playwright and composer Hubert Gregg became her third husband in 1956. He wrote hit songs such as Maybe It’s Because I’m A Londoner. Their marriage ended 23 years later.
  • Pat met husband number four just two years later. Peter Knight, a retired lawyer and president of the Bradford & Bingley Building Society.

ABOVE – As I remember the very young Pat Kirkwood with George Formby in ‘Come On George’ one of his very best films

Another of the Duke of Edinburgh’s friends for a time was James Robertson Justice – I thought that he was a part of the ‘Thursday Club’ that met in London’s West End in the early fifties.

It has been claimed Philip was first introduced to the club by his good friend Baron Nahum, a society photographer, with the help of the actor James Robertson Justice and several others.

The Duke of Edinburgh at the ceremony where James Robertson Justice became Rector of Edinburgh University

The Duke of Edinburgh and James Robertson Justice on occasions went wildfowling together in the Wash close to Sandringham

Jack Mills a Holbeach Lincolnshire resident, had been told an amusing story concerning Prince Philip’s stay at The Bull Hotel in Long Sutton, from actor James Robertson Justice, who was a regular wildfowler in the area.

Prince Philip joined the actor during a morning shoot on the outmarsh in 1954.

Prince Philip had been ordered out The Bull Hotel in Long Sutton in the 1950s
Prince Philip had been ordered out The Bull Hotel in Long Sutton in the 1950s

Mr Mills, of Holbeach, said: “Arriving secretly the two of them laid out all their gear in the scullery before loading into the car.”

This created some problems for a staff member who had arrived early to clean.

Mr Mills said: “To her horror, she saw the clobber on the scullery floor and was unable to start work.

“She knew Justice well but had no idea who the other fellow was, and ordered them both to get out in no uncertain terms.”

She put them both in their place on this occasion

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Prince Philip with the Queen visiting Ronald Reagan and his wife – California

As we pay tribute to Prince Philip for his service over a lifetime to the Queen and Country we go back to a happy visit for them both to California when they met film star of the fifties and before, Ronald Reagan, and his film star wife Nancy.

Prince Philip, as always, was at his wife, The Queen’s side, during this memorable visit

I always remember this visit coincided with an enormous amount of rainfall and the Queen and Duke’s party had a real job even getting to the ranch owned by President Reagan and his wife Nancy.

I have the idea that they came on the Royal Yacht or at least it was nearby.

On her historic first visit to Santa Barbara, thousands braved cold rain to get a glimpse of her at the Santa Barbara Airport, Courthouse and Mission.

But what promised to be a festive occasion for her scheduled landing at Santa Barbara’s Stearns Wharf was washed out by a persistent rainstorm.

Queen Elizabeth and her husband Prince Philip left the royal yacht Britannia in Long Beach and flew instead on an Air Force DC-9 and spent six hours in Reagan’s home town.

The improvised arrival was shifted to a large Tracor Aviation hangar at the airport.

From there he motorcade sped through flag-decked streets to Highway 101 and the Reagan’s 688-acre Rancho del Cielo.

The parties had to use four-wheel drive vehicles to ford swollen crossings of Refugio Creek.

A horse ride at the ranch was scrubbed even though it wasn’t raining at the time. Lunch was enchiladas, chile rellenos, refried beans, tacos, rice, guacamole and fresh fruit.

The queen’s press secretary, Michael O’Shea, said she found the rugged trip through flooded creeks up the mountain “very enjoyable and very exciting.”

Ronald Reagan riding with The Queen

The Queen presents Ronald Reagan with an Honour in London

Ronald Reagan di not make that many films involving horse riding but below is one of them :-

The Last Outpost 1951

Ronald Reagan was always a good rider and would have loved to do more westerns in his career and it seems that he was really pleased to accept the role in The Last Outpost after he was give permission to ride his own horse which was named Tarbaby

The Last Outpost casts Ronald Reagan and Bruce Bennett who are brothers and who have split their loyalties during the Civil War. Fate has brought them together in the west with Bennett taking command of a Federal outpost in Arizona territory to deal with a band of Confederate raiders. Little does Bennett know that Reagan is commanding those raiders and little does Reagan know that the girl he left behind played by Rhonda Fleming is out west and unhappily married to trading post owner John Ridgely.

John Ridgely gets killed early on in the film, but not before he sets in motion a plan whereby he will be legally allowed to sell whiskey and arms to the Apaches.

Bruce Bennett plays the solid dependable brother, but Ronald Reagan has the dash and charm in his role

The Last Outpost is a good entertaining western with the cast giving fine performances

ABOVE – A Scene from ‘The Last Outpost’


A scene from another Ronald Reagan Western – and one I well remember ‘ Cattle Queen of Montana’ with Barbara Stanwyck.

I remember seeing this and being impressed yet again by the VERY wide screen – In ‘Superscope’

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Prince Philip – ‘The Queen in Australia 1954’ film

Today we learn of the death of the Queen’s loyal and devoted husband Prince Philip – someone who has been with her every step of the way throughout her long reign and before and someone she relied on both to support her and to advise her.

Her Majesty, The Queen is a woman who has served as Queen for 68 years and barely put a foot wrong in those seven decades.

She has today lost the love of her life, and the man who helped her throughout.

Britain today has lost one of its greatest servants.

We Thank You Prince Philip for your service to our country in both Wartime and later as The Queen’s most loyal husband and companion throughout your long life. Thank You again

We pay our tribute to The Duke of Edinburgh here by linking to a film made of The Queen and Prince Philip’s tour of Australia in 1954 showing to the world, in an era long before live Television, a cinema released colour film of the whole tour – made in Ferraniacolor

To put the success of this visit in perspective when the 27 year old Queen sailed into Sydney harbour on 3 February 1954, she practically stopped the nation. Her arrival at Farm Cove, attracted an estimated 1 million onlookers in a city with a population of 1,863,161 (1954 ABS Census). Those who couldn’t be there in person could listen to ABC radio’s nation-wide coverage of the historic occasion.

Here again as always Prince Philip was at her side

The Duke of Edinburgh had in fact  six decades as an official and very colourful Royal visitor to Australia.

As head of the Commonwealth, the Queen is the head of state in 16 nations, including the English-speaking, Westminster democracies of Australia, Canada and New Zealand.  

The Queen is always warmly welcomed wherever she has travelled in Australia.

On some occasions, however, the Duke has visited Australia without the Queen, such as when he opened the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, the 1962 Empire Games in Perth and the Royal Australian Mint in Canberra in 1965.

WINDSOR, UNITED KINGDOM – MAY 16: The Queen And Prince Philip Chatting Together During The Royal Windsor Horse Show In The Grounds Of Windsor Castle.

He was also by the Queen’s side when she opened the Sydney Opera House in 1973 and the new Parliament House in 1988 as Australia was commemorating its bicentenary. 

ABOVE – This 1954 film— in CinemaScope and Eastman Color/Colour—covers the earlier-in-the-year six-months tour of the British Commonwealth by Queen Elizabeth and Philip, later joined by Prince Charles and Princess Anne toward the end of the trip.

This film includes visits to the Fiji Islands, Tongo, the Cocos Islands, Ceylon, Africa, New Zealand as well as Australia.

We see lots of native music and tribal dances and scenery in between shots of the Royal pair arriving and departing.

For many of these visits The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh travelled by the Royal Yacht – and they loved it. It must have been so exciting for them to sail from Australia to New Zealand then on to Fiji and Tonga through the Pacific Ocean. They would just be able to make those visits and then return to their ‘little home’ on the ocean

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Larry Parks – The Swordsman

Larry Parks had hit stardom in a very big way before this with ‘The Jolson Story’ a huge hit at the Box Office starring as the legendary Al Jolson

After ‘The Jolson Story’ Larry appeared in two swashbucklers for Columbia first this one and then quickly afterwards in ‘The Gallant Blade’ both faring very well at the Box Office

The Swordsman 1948 with Ellen Drew

ABOVE – Looks like a happy ending which I am pleased about

BELOW – Larry in the saddle

After these two films he went back and did ‘Jolson Sings Again’ another big hit financially. It has to be said that he was great as Al Jolson and the way he mimed to the songs was about as perfect as I have ever seen.

‘The Jolson Story’ and ‘Jolson Sings Again’ were close to being the biggest commercial successes of 1946 and 1949 respectively

Jolson Sings Again 1949

Larry Parks wed the love of his life, Betty Garrett, who he’d met at The Actors Studio and for him at least, it was love at first sight. They stayed married until Larry died of a heart attack in 1975.    Following the success of “Jolson” he went on to star in “The Gallant Blade” “Down to Earth” with Riat Hayworth, The Swordsman” with Ellen Drew and was voted 1947’s Bobby Soxers Man of the Year.

Then Larry and Betty put together a Song and Dance Variety Act to play The London Palladium after which the successfully toured England and Scotland to packed crowds.    
In 1949 Larry reprised his Jolson portrayal for the Hit sequel “Jolson Sings Again”, his performances reviving Al ‘s career and putting him back in the spotlight selling records to a whole new generation.   After this came “Emergency Wedding” with Barbara Hale, who had played the second ‘Mrs Jolson’, the first played by Evelyn Keyes.   

Larry then starred with Elizabeth Taylor in “Love is Better than Ever” (1952, which I think would have been better if it had been in Colour!)     Then with Betty they again took their Variety Act back to Europe and from there to Las Vegas playing at El Rancho  and The Desert Inn, at this time Larry was also Guesting on TV in ‘Dr Kildare’ and The Ford All Star Theatre. 

He went back to England in ’55 to make “Tiger By The Tail’ and then on returning to the USA, Larry took the Lead Touring in “Teahouse of The August Moon” for three years (when Marlon Brando was offered the part in the film, he went to watch Larry and visited him).

Following this he toured in “The Marriage Go Round, “Any Wednesday” “Bells are Ringing” “High Button Shoes”, “Plaza Suite” (which he loved and played again in 1970)”Cactus Flower” “The Tender Trap” some of these were with Betty Starring with him. he then did more TV  (Hitchcock, The Untouchables) and his last Film Role was in John Houston’s “Freud” with Montgomery Clift in 1962. He also continued playing Theatre with Betty and their two sons, Garrett and Andrew.

Above – A Scene from ‘The Swordsman’

ABOVE – The 750-seat Elgin Theatre in Ottawa, Canada, opened as a single screen theatre on November 15, 1937 with Leslie Howard in “Stand-In”. It was designed by architectural firm Kaplan & Sprachman. The Elgin Theatre added another auditorium on December 25, 1947 opening with Larry Parks in “The Swordsman”, making it one of North America’s earliest two-screen theatres.

Larry and Betty had put together a Song and Dance Variety Act and came to England with it and this must have been one of the venues

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Visit to Elstree Film Studios

Back in what would have been the summer of 1958, in the Fans Own Film Annual there is featured a very interesting article on two young ladies who were obviously film fans who were invited to pay a visit to tour the studios and see what was happening and, maybe, meet some of the stars.

The two young ladies in question were 20 year old Judy Pickering and 23 year old recently married Pamela Hoisington

Pam and Judy arrive at Elstree to a cheery greeting

Judy writes :

I think every film fan must have wondered sometimes about all the work that goes into a film before it appears on the screen. I don’t just mean how many times a certain scene is shot before the director is satisfied, or how much time is devoted to the arduous task of learning lines, but how long it takes to construct the sets needed for the film and the materials used, the job of obtaining unusual props, how costumes are designed and made, the work of the continuity girl, the time spent in hair-dressing, make-up, tea making – the list is never ending.

My friend Pam and I found the answers to a great many of these questions in our visit to Elstree Studios

Pam and Judy are greeted by Stanley Baker who is at Elstree filming ‘Violent Saturday’

Our charming host, Mr Toy Curtis-Bramwell, the Publicity Editor, met us at the main doors and led us into his spacious office with portraits of our favourite stars on the wall. He introduced us to Mr Bob Penn, our photographer. Together they showed us around the immense buildings and surrounding countryside that forms Associated British Studios.

First to the Props rooms which are housed in an enormous two-storeyed building

ABOVE – Pam among the bottles – plenty to drink there by the looks of it

This is just the start of Judy’s recollections of a very interesting day.

We will continue this with more details and pictures – we will see them finding memorabilia from ‘Tommy the Toreador’ a film that had starred Tommy Steele. It had been filmed to a great extent in Spain with the interior scenes done at Elstree

Filmed at Elstree
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A New Cinema Venture – Maybe Not

From time to time, I purchase a film of the era on celluloid and on reels – often 16 mm ones which I don’t think were used so much in cinemas – I may be wrong on that.

Anyway a few weeks ago I purchased this 35 mm Film of Walt Disney’s classic ‘The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men’ made here in England in 1951 and released in 1952.

This 35 mm format would have been used in cinemas

I must admit that I am pretty chuffed to have acquired this from the USA

The pictures of the cardboard box containing the film are pretty mundane I know but it is what is inside that is exciting – now all we need is a 35 mm Film Projector and away we go.

When we load up the projector, dim the lights and press the button we are there in the greenwood and in TECHNICOLOR

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Mrs Dale – Ellis Powell and Ralph Truman

Just following up on recent articles.

BELOW – This is a picture that was taken at the time of the 2,000 th episode of Mrs Dale’s Diary with Ellis Powell as Mrs Dale and James Dale as Dr Dale. This episode coincided with their son Bob’s wedding

In the last weeks of her life, Ellis Powell is reported to have worked at the Ideal Home Exhibition and as a hotel cleaner. She had been invited to become an announcer at boxer Freddie Mills’s Nite spot in London, but died before she could take the job.

On 19 February 1963, Ellis Powell a fifty-six-year-old character actress walked out of Broadcasting House for the last time. In fact she had earned less than £ 30 a week playing Mrs. Dale in Mrs Dale’s Diary but her voice was as well known in Britain as that of Queen Elizabeth II, for it was heard twice a day by seven million devoted listeners.

The BBC had decided the programme needed a facelift and got rid of Ellis Powell. Typical of the BBC – they haven’t changed much over the years – they have a successful programme like this one with 7 million listeners and then decide to get rid of the mainstay of the show – the leading actress. It defies belief but this is the way it is done there it seems.

Three months later, at the age of fifty-seven, she died. Her friends believed she never recovered from the shock and distress of her sudden departure from the BBC. In the last weeks of her life she worked as a demonstrator at the Ideal Home Exhibition and as a cleaner in a hotel.

Freddie Mills Nite Spot

Freddie Mills Nite Spot

Ellis Powell had been married to fellow actor Ralph Truman who I always remember for playing George Merry in Walt Disney’s ‘Treasure Island’ in 1950.

The Director Byron Haskin allowed and in fact encouraged Ralph Truman to go head to head with Robert Newton in the acting stakes and this he did with much success the resulting in making Robert Newton seem to be almost underplaying his role of Long John Silver at times when they were both on screen together.

Having said that Byron Haskin was full of praise for Robert Newton who had worked so hard on the film with barely a day off

Ralph Truman as George Merry in ‘Treasure Island’

Anyway, I digress – Ralph Truman had a long and successful career as a film actor and his wife too had a good career in Radio drama from before the War and during the War and afterwards.

Ralph Truman was also in a very good Hitchcock film ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’ in 1956 as Inspector Buchanan – and later he appeared in Ben Hur and El Cid

Ralph Truman on the Left in The Night My Number Came Up

As for his wife Ellis Powell, her treatment by the BBC afterwards was nothing short of shameful. They even seemed to go along and promote the story that she had a problem with alcohol – but when this is looked into there is very little evidence to support that

Ralph du Vergier Truman, 1900 – 1977

Ralph du Vergier Truman was born 7 May 1900, in London Ralph married Ellis Agnes Estelle Truman (born Powell).Ellis was born in 1905, in London, England.

After her death Ralph married Maria “Mimi” Vittoria H Truman (born Cooper).Maria was born on November 13 1918, in Brentford, Middlesex, England

Ralph Truman died in Ipswich in 1977

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Rose Marie 1954

When you take one of the most popular shows in the world at the time, give it the most lavish treatment accorded to a big colour musical, film it in Cinemascope with such stars as Howard Keel, Ann Blyth and Fernando Lamas and then ensure that the breath-taking backgrounds are the Canadian Rockies you finish up with ‘Rose Marie’

Ann Blyth is Rose Marie Lemaitre, left all alone in the world after the death of her trapper father.  Miss Blyth apparently had no qualms about playing a French Canadian, as her delightful accent is just right.  She seemed to be ok alone in the world, for when the Mountie first encounters her, she is placidly fishing from a canoe, quite contentedly

The Mountie, Sgt. Malone, is Howard Keel, resplendent in that red coat.

He has the job of taking her out of the wilderness,  and bring her into protective custody. 

She is unwilling, almost frightened to go with him. She runs away, and he tracks her down, finding her cuddled up like a bear cub in sleep, but when he disturbs her, she attacks him with a knife.  At the first opportunity, she bites him.

This was the first musical ever to be filmed in CinemaScope, and it’s amazing how fluid the scenes are and how the shots vary.  In later musicals, including The Student Prince, Kismet, really most of the late 1950s musicals that were filmed in CinemaScope, the shots seem almost static. 

Ann Blyth appears in the above publicity photo with Fernando Lamas.  from Rose Marie (1954),

Ann Blyth was twenty-four when she played the title role in this musical, and it is impossible not to be impressed by her ability to appear so young, so naturally and effortlessly a teenager when in her teen years she often played characters who were older, or least more poised and sophisticated.     

She was married in 1953 to Dr. James McNulty and they remained together until his death in 2007 – they had four children – the first was born just before this film was released

Ann Blyth also had a long and busy stage career playing in many of the big musicals

Rose Marie- ABOVE a spectacular scene

By the time this film was made Howard Keel had changed his name – no longer Harold Keel as he had been in ‘Oklahoma’ in the West End of London at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in the late 40s

Rose Marie

Rose Marie 1954

MGM’s first CinemaScope musical is visually splendid, with what looks like on-location filming of the Canadian wilderness. The lake and mountain vistas must be even more spectacular on the big CINEMASCOPE screen as  even on a TV screen they’re impressive.

It is a very well made film and the combination of Howard Keel and Ann Blyth was perfect

About the same time, another big musical was done on the enormous studio sets and that was ‘Brigadoon’ – where that village in the Scottish Highlands comes to life for one day in every 100 years

Prior to ‘Rose Marie’, Ann Blyth had come to England to film ‘The House on the Square’ opposite Tyrone Power – the film was made at Denham Film Studios

Here she is in London on Horseguards Parade ABOVE

Ann Blyth travelled to England to star in this film. She flew over on four days’ notice having replaced the original actress for some reason. Her uncle and aunt, with whom she lived after the death of her mother, were Irish immigrants, as her mother was. They came to England to join Ann on her film shoot, and when the job was done, they toured Europe for a few weeks, and visited Ireland and all the relatives there. I understand Ann made an appearance at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin and was well received by the public.

Years later, President Eisenhower invited Ann to the White House on St. Patrick’s Day to sing for the visiting President of Ireland.

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H Maxwell Coker – a stage career and a marriage to Sally Ann Howes

Maybe not a name that we know well but Maxwell Coker was a very well respected actor of the late forties and early fifties on the West End stage – and here he is below with a signed postcard from when he was appearing in London’s West End in ‘Oklahoma’

Maxwell Coker

Maxwell Coker was born in Corinth, Miss. in 1920 and led an interesting and fascinating life. His is included membership in the legendary Theatre Guild and stage appearances on Broadway, throughout the United States and Europe, as well as in London at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane.

He was an original cast member of the London production of “Oklahoma!” in the late 1940’s and continued his long stage career, primarily in London, in productions of, “Sing Out,” “Sweet Land,” “Carousel,” “Tuppence Coloured,” “Three Cornered Moon,” “Jane, High Spirits,” “Bittersweet,” “The Good Fairy” and many others. Mr. Coker was also privileged to appear in several Royal Command performances.

He married Sally Ann Howes in 1950 but sadly that didn’t last – many of the stars below were at their wedding.

This below is from a Newspaper Report of the day

Sally and Maxwell decorating their flat before their marriage

LONDON. March 11 1950 Traffic was brought to a standstill in the Strand as hundreds of office workers ran to get a glimpseof the 19-year-old film star Sally Ann Howes leaving Savoy Chapel after her wedding to Maxwell Coker, one of the original members of the ‘Oklahoma!’ cast.

She arrived five minutes late and stood smiling at a crowd that had already gathered before entering the chapel.She wore a gold and whitebrocade crinoline dress sprinkled with diamente, wornwith a high mandarin collar and long sleeves.

As she entered the chapel on the arm of her actor father.Bobby Howes. 50 of the waitingcrowd surged inside and sat in back pews. -Earlier the crowd stood watching the arrival of the 130 guests, mostly well-known theatrical people.


Mention was made above of the stars at the wedding and they included many of is co-stars from London Productions and included Laurence Olivier, Howard Keel, Sir John Gielgud, Alfred Drake, Mary Martin, Richard Burton, Burl Ives, Cyril Ritchard, Lily Pons, Hermione Gingold, Coral Brown, Vivian Leigh, Salome Jens, Jeanette McDonald, Noel Coward, Patricia Neal and Emlyn Williams. In World War II, Mr. Coker served as an honorary officer in the British Military and toured the South Pacific Islands performing with the cast of “Oklahoma!.”

In 1951, Mr. Coker continued his love of the theatre after he left the stage with the birth of “Brillianteen,” an Evanston Township High School student production. Beginning in 1955 and continuing for many more years, Coker directed several productions. “Brillianteen” continues today as a showcase for young talent with a yearly production.

He was trained at Sanford Meisner’s Neighbourhood Playhouse and George Balanchine’s School of American Ballet, the veteran actor returned to the stage after a 30-year absence for his final, “just for fun” performance in 1991 as the title role of Sheridan Whiteside in Kaufman and Hart’s “The Man Who Came to Dinner” at the Country Playhouse in Houston.

After a 26-year show business career, Mr. Coker returned to the United States where he met his wife of 47 years, Patricia Henehan. He worked with American Express as a manager for 21 years and appeared in many American Express travel-related TV and radio programmes.

During his tenure with American Express, he negotiated with the Communist governments of the Soviet Union and China to bring in the first American tourists ever. He also taught in a travel industry school, hosted a Chicago-area TV show “It’s Fun to Travel,” and lectured at the University of Illinois to graduate students about public relations.

In addition to his theatrical and travel agency career, Mr. Coker was a witty raconteur and an accomplished cook whose hospitality attracted young and old alike. His gentlemanly charm, melodious voice and generous nature gained him a worldwide circle of admirers.

In June, the Cokers had relocated to Houston, to be near their children and grandchildren.

To conclude – back we go to 1947 and this review of the Show Oklahoma which I believe was written about it’s Manchester production prior to going into the West End at the world famous ‘Theatre Royal Drury Lane’

Maxwell Coker is cast, as we see, as one of the leading actors in this classic musical that wowed British audiences just after the war

The curtains parted a little and a cowboy stepped forward to apologise for the delay because “our sets and costumes were on the Queen Elizabeth liner stranded on a sandbank off Southampton, but we are almost ready to begin.” He disappeared back through the curtains and a buzz went around the house, slowly subsiding. All of a sudden the orchestra struck up, Aunt Eller was churning the milk and the potent voice of Harold Keel enchanted us with “There’s a bright golden haze on the meadow…..”. The gleaming sunshine of the show lit up the auditorium- and the audience with it. OKLAHOMA! utterly thrilled the grey and gloomy British, still reeling from the War. From that moment on, there was no holding this powerhouse of a show, sweeping us off our feet and, two weeks later, Theatre Royal Drury Lane audiences for 1,543 performances.

Harold Keel was soon to have his name changed to Howard Keel

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Bonanza – and Dan Blocker –

Dan Blocker was a major star at the time of his death, as he was still a leading cast member of the Western TV series Bonanza.

One month after the Season 13 finale finished in 1972, Dan — who had been with the series since day one — died at the age of 43 from a post-operative pulmonary embolism following gall bladder surgery. 

In an unprecedented move for television, producers chose to kill off his character, Hoss in the series

Producers made the difficult decision to kill off Hoss after determining that no one else could possibly step into the role. Hoss’ off-screen death marked the first time in TV history that a major young male character had been killed off in a show instead of just written off. 

His cause of death wasn’t revealed until the 1988 made-for-television movie, Bonanza: The Next Generation, which didn’t star any of the original cast members. In the film, it was explained that Hoss had drowned trying to save a woman’s life. 

In Season 14, the writers attempted to fill the hole left by Dan’s death with a new character named Griff King, a parolee looking to reform his life on the Ponderosa Ranch, and the return of cowboy Candy Canaday

However the loss of Hoss caused Bonanza’s ratings to plummet.

All-together, Dan Blocker appeared in 415 episodes of Bonanza, between 1959 and 1972.

In addition to being a family man and a big Hollywood star, Dan Blocker was also a military veteran. He was drafted into the United States Army during the Korean War and served as an infantry sergeant from December 1951 to Aug. He was awarded a Purple Heart, after suffering wounds in combat, and also reportedly received the National Defensethe series Service Medal, Korean Service Medal with two bronze campaign stars, Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation, United Nations Service Medal, Korean War Service Medal, and Combat Infantryman Badge.

Always one to have a kind word or good advice, Dan Blocker once commented on his celebrity status by candidly addressing how off-putting it could be at times. “Fame frightens me; it truly does, perhaps because I wasn’t expecting it,” he was quoted as saying, “I feel like I have a tiger by the tail. I’m in this business for the money. I need money, like anyone else, because I want to give to my wife and kids a good home and a good life. It’s what any man wants to do for his family. …I’m just an ordinary guy.”

Dan was very much a family man – in fact at least two of his sons are in the film industry to this day

As we all know, Dan played the role of Hoss Cartwright for thirteen seasons, from 1959 until his death in 1972 from complications following an operation, on NBC’s “Bonanza,” one of the longest-running and most popular TV series in history – and one which was shown all over the world

Dan Blocker ABOVE reading

ABOVE – The Stars of ‘Bonanza’ Pernell Roberts, Michael Landon, Dan Blocker and Lorne Greene

I remember Lorne Greene releasing a ‘talking single’ record call ‘Ringo’ which seemed to do quite well in England – I listened to it again via the internet a few days ago – it is good

‘Ringo’ ABOVE

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